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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

September 5, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Sark bites — Pre-Hawaii edition

As noted earlier, UW coach Steve Sarkisian held his regular weekly Monday press conference today to talk about Saturday’s win over Eastern Washington and look ahead to next week’s game against Hawaii.

Here’s what the unvarnished version of what he said:

Opening comment: “In review of the ball game this weekend, I’d like to kick it off first by giving Eastern credit. They played a nice football game. They came prepared mentally, physically, emotionally – they played a nice game. On our end, after evaluating the film, I really feel like we played not to lose. And that’s disappointing to me. We played much too cautious, much too cautious a brand of football. Examples of that would be…maybe some play calls. Examples would be our inability to come off the football on the offensive line and attack and be physical the way I know we’re capable of being. An example of that would be when we’re calling pressures and the guys that should be coming on the blitzes coming too hesitant, too cautious – not letting loose and attacking the quarterback and allowing him to throw the football down the field when we have rushers unblocked. That shouldn’t be the case. If you’re not blocked, we should at least get a hit on the quarterback as he delivers the ball, and that didn’t happen.

“I thought we lacked energy. I thought we lacked enthusiasm. I didn’t think we were physical at all, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So ultimately that stuff has to start with me. I need to coach better. I need to motivate better. We need to be better prepared than we were Saturday, from an emotional standpoint for sure.

“I will say that I thought the game had a couple of opportunities to really almost go in our favor. That didn’t happen. That could have maybe changed the complexion of the game. I think to two of their touchdown passes – one on a 4th and 10 where the quarterback scrambles and we cut a guy loose for a touchdown, and then another one coming on a 3rd and 26 where he scrambles and throws another touchdown. You get two stops there, and maybe it’s a different game. Offensively, we take a shot there to Kevin Smith, and it’s just off his fingertips in the end zone. We get a sudden change after (Garret) Gilliland’s interception, and not a great play call by me rolling Keith (Price) out, giving up a sack and have to settle for another three points there which could have been seven. And an opportunity to hit (Austin) Seferian-Jenkins for a touchdown there in the fourth quarter to put the game away…didn’t quite see him and threw it to (Michael) Hartvigson and had to settle for a field goal there. I thought the game had some opportunities for us to really take it over and get grips of it, but that didn’t happen. So that was disappointing as well.

“I will say areas that I was very impressed with our team…one was taking care of the ball offensively, and two creating four turnovers. It’s been a huge area for us since Day One. There is no more telling stat in the sport of football than the turnover margin – when you win that battle, the percentages tell you you’re going to win the game. We were able to do that, and it obviously played a huge impact. I thought our special teams were fantastic. A year ago this Monday sitting in front of you guys, talking about how poor they were at BYU…it’s a great feeling to come in here a year later and talk about how well they played in all phases.

“The goal for us is to now become a complete football team, to utilize the fact that we’re good on special teams, that we have the potential to be a very good offensive and defensive football team – and to put ’em all together.

“It’s obviously good to be 1-0. It’s obviously good to continue the win streak of five straight wins. But as always — and I said this last year and I will say it this year — one game does not define a football team. This one football game is not going to define the 2011 Washington Huskies football team. I look back at teams in the past to draw comparisons to. We won the ball game, but I look back to Virginia Tech last year losing to James Madison and starting off the year 0-2 — and then still finishing in a BCS bowl game.

“So there’s a lot of work to be done with this football team in all three phases. But I know we are better than how we played, and it starts with our style of play. We are a much more physical, much more relentless football team. And we didn’t show that, we didn’t exude that, on Saturday. So we’ve got to get back to that brand of football.

“On an injury front, Keith Price with the sprained knee, looks much better yesterday and today. Will probably be limited early in the week but we expect him to play. We expect Jermaine Kearse to play, he looks much better. Quinton will play. Garret Gilliland coming off the concussion, looks like he will be fine. The doctors cleared him today. He has to sit one day, and then he can go back at it tomorrow. And Chris Polk came out of it great. So an injury front we look very good.

“Our young players, we need to really learn from this game. This is going to be a great teaching week for us as a staff, to elevate the game of our young football players. We talk about starting a true freshman SAM linebacker in Johnny Timu, we talk about a true sophomore in Princeton Fuimaono, Sean Parker making his first career start at safety, a lot of guys — James Sample, getting out there for the first time at safety — Greg Ducre really getting his most significant playing time. They are did some good things. They all were relatively sound. There weren’t a bunch of missed assignments. Where we need to get better is, when we are in our zone coverage we need to be much more sticky in our zone coverage, to understand that ‘Yes, this is my zone. But when a man enters my zone he essentially becomes my man.’ We were playing a little too much ‘textbook’ football on Saturday. (They) will get better at that when they see themselves on film and understanding that. But it’s going to be a challenge to our coaching staff to really teach and coach this week, on offense and defense. The likes of a Kasen Williams, Seferian-Jenkins, those guys elevating their games, because this obviously another challenging week coming up with Hawaii.

“Their quarterback, I mean the guy last year threw for 5,000 yards. And they didn’t return a bunch of receivers and offensive linemen, so what did he do last week? He rushed for 100 yards and had a 50-something-yard touchdown run. He’s a very good football player. We are going to have our hands full with him. They run an offense that is proven, has withstood the test of time. Mouse Davis is back on staff. They are doing all the things they need to in the run-and-shoot. They make it challenging on you, so we are going to have our hands full there.

“Very aggressive defense, really led by their defensive front four. These guys get after the quarterback. I think they had seven sacks against Colorado last week. So the game’s going to start there. It’s going to be a real challenge for our offensive line, and they need to respond. We didn’t play very well up front last week, not up to the standards of the University of Washington, that’s for sure.

“I firmly believe that this game is more about us than Hawaii, and that’s by no means disrespectful to Hawaii. They are a tremendous football team, tremendous program. Coach (Greg) McMackin has done a great job. But this game is about us getting right, getting back to the brand and the style of football that we are accustomed to, and that’s a physical brand and one that we believe in, in all three phases, with the energy and the enthusiasm and effort it takes to play that brand. So that will be the focus for us this week.”

On what he planned to say to the team in its meeting today: “We’ll address things. That’s part of football. That’s part of it. We need to understand when things are acceptable and what things aren’t. There are standards that have been set here – by them, because they have shown us what they’re capable of doing and the way they’re capable of playing. And those standards were set by them. And now we’re held to those standards. When we don’t play to those standards, we need to be accountable to that. They’ll be addressed accordingly about that.”

On if the lack of energy was surprising given what he’d seen during camp: “It was one of my major concerns throughout the week. You don’t know. Our offensive line, three of those five guys are second-year players. That was one of my concerns: what would we really be like when the lights came on? So now that’s coaching, now that’s motivating, now that falls upon me. Because it’s not about talent. I think we’re plenty good enough. The other side of it is, as I said earlier, I think the mentality of the team was off. For us to play a cautious game like that is disappointing to me. That is something that is the last thing I want our teams to play with, a cautious mentality. We should be aggressive, we should be relentless, we should be going for it mentality. For a team that I’m coaching to play that way is one of the most disappointing things that I’ve seen around here. And so we’ll address it and we’ll get right.”

On if he changed how he called the game once he noticed the lack of energy: “I don’t know, maybe a little bit there. I just think, as the game wore on, and as the game was close and the stress and tension of the game could have played a factor in that to your guys. All of a sudden, maybe we missed it with them, and maybe they thought that this game was supposed to be easier than it was. By no means did we tell them that it was going to be. But the game got hard, and to Eastern’s credit. They played a nice football game. Maybe we got too stressed, I don’t know. So we’ve got to figure that out because that’s not our style of play.”

On if guys are thinking too much: “Potentially. Potentially we could have been over-thinking, trying to be so right that you’re not playing fast and free football. ‘Am I right? Am I right?’ Well, geez, by then, the play’s already halfway done and now I’m just trying to catch up. There is the potential of that, for sure. Hopefully as they see themselves on film and realize that we weren’t necessarily wrong, we just weren’t doing it with the energy and the passion and the explosiveness that it needs to be done at. I don’t think we had a bunch of missed assignments on the other side of the ball. We had some, but that’s football, you’re going to make some mistakes. But at least if we’re making mistakes, we’re doing them at 100 miles and hour. And we were playing at, like, 75 miles an hour.”

On if young guys playing their first game was a factor: “I guess. I don’t know. We’ll assess it. This is two years in a row where I’ve been disappointed after Week 1. We’ll have to look at training camp and what we’re doing and maybe get ourselves more prepared mentally, and emotionally, for the ball game. But I’ll worry about that next, y’know, June. Right now we’ve got five days to get ready for a team that won 10 games last year, and they’re 1-0.”

On Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz running: “They’ve got some designed runs. They’ve got some speed option stuff they are utilizing with him. But the bulk of them are when they’re covered well down field and he’s tucking the ball and running. And he’s been doing it since he started against USC last year, and he keeps doing it, and he did it this week. If it weren’t for the sacks, I think he rushes for almost 150 yards in the game. He’s a real threat.”

On Hawaii’s quarterback history and offense: “I think they’ve got a system and there’s been a lot of quarterbacks that have played in that system that have thrown for a lot of yard not just at Hawaii, if you follow Mouse around and June was there before, alumni here have played in that system and thrown for a lot of yards – Warren Moon in the NFL was one of them. It’s a great system to allow quarterbacks to throw for yardage when he’s really in sync with his wide receivers. There’s a lot of route reading, understanding of coverage and you need to be on the same page. Last year, they had a veteran group of wide receivers and he got into that system and played a very fast, mentally fast, brand of football where the ball was out, the anticipation was there and he’s an accurate passer. This year they are breaking in some new guys at the wide receiver spot, why he pulled the down a little bit more last week, I don’t know. Maybe the sync – they weren’t quite there yet. But they will get there. He’s too good of a quarterback and they are too good of coaches not to get there.”

On how similar Hawaii’s offense is to Eastern’s: “I wish I could give you a percentage to really nail it, to say it’s 75 percent of it or not. It’s similar. Hawaii is a pistol formation team. So they are going to be in four wide personnel like Eastern was. But instead of that back being offset, the back will be behind the quarterback. It gives you a few more options in the run game. Obviously the protection will be a little different. From a route concept, they both are efficient in the underneath to intermediate passing games. I thought Eastern did a great job of that Saturday of when we were in zone coverages finding the soft spots and getting completions on first and second down. We’ll see quite a bit of that this week. As I touched on getting sticky in zone coverage, it’s going to be critical for us because they could become very similar if we allow the game to go that way. Hopefully we can get them out of that mode dinking and dunking down the field.”

On elaborating on second-guessing some of his play calls: “I had a few calls especially the one after the interception by Gilliland knowing Keith was a little banged up with the knee injury that wasn’t a good call, that was a bad football call right there of rolling him out of the pocket and we end up giving up a big sack and have to settle for a field goal right there. I really feel like I potentially was a little bit cautious especially after keith had the knee injury. If we put him back on the field to play that means he’s good enough to compete and play and we should have stayed more aggressive than we were. With that coupled with Jermaine being out it didn’t taste right. It didn’t feel great watching the film, the rhythm of what we wree doing offensively didn’t’ feel right to me.”
On calling the running play on third down on UW’s last offensive possession: “The goal there is to get there timeouts out of their hands and in a perfect world you end the game. You end the game on offense and again, another bone of contention with me. That one doesn’t sit well with me, that we weren’t able to finish the game on offense when we got the ball back. We had gotten one first down and needed one more to end the ball game and weren’t able to do it. That being said, especially it being a third and 11, running the ball felt right to me to get them out of their last timeout and put our punter on the field who is a tremendous player and do what we needed to do. If it was a third and five different scenario there. Different scenario. Now we’re going to call our best play to get us a first down to end the ball game but to risk giving them one more timeout, potentially a sack on third and long I didn’t want to do that.”

On if he needs to open up the playbook for Price: “We were going in doing that. What happend to me in the game is he got banged up and then you lose the guy that’s your go-to guy wide out and you’ve got a new quarterback and you lose his go to wide receiver and the flow of the game just didn’t go great to me. You’re going to have games like that as a play caller. I’m not going to put it on keith being a sophomore. I’ll put it more on a quarterback who got banged up and you try and protect him that way. I wasn’t trying to protect him mentally at all. I was trying to protect him physically, especially after giving up the sack there after the interception.”

On Price’s knee and if it will be a factor Saturday: “That’s what the week of practice is going to have to be about. Our doctors have assured me he is going to be fine. He is a little bit sore still today but he’s fine and he’ll be ready to go. The week of practice is about his mentality of believing he’s healthy and ready to go. From a mental confidence standpoint and how he played, I thought Keith was very sharp mentally in the ball game. I didn’t think the game was too big for him by any means. I thought he was on point where he wanted to go with the ball and his eyes were in the right place outside of a couple here and there, but that’s football, that’s part of playing the position of quarterback. I think if anything I would have given him more opportunities to making more plays.”

On the lack of a pass rush: “Their quick passing game challenges you that way to get pressure on the quarterback, but also when we’re calling pressures and they don’t have anyone assigned to block you, you’ve got to get there and we weren’t getting there. This has been something we’ve had to deal with early in seasons the last couple of years and I think we have identified it much quicker this year and we should improve at it much quicker this year. ”

On Richardson being 100 percent: “I would imagine. I’ll have to assess him today but I would imagine so. What I don’t want is to have him go really hard Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday and Thursday and later in the week he is sore again so we’ll have to assess exactly how much practice time we will give him.”

On Alameda Ta’amu playing with a cast: “I didn’t see any affect. I thought Alameda played hard and with really good effort. That style of a game is not really conducive to Alameda Ta’amu’s strengths. He played hard and he played with good effort, he got downfield and made tackles. But you are talking really 70 times they called passes in the game. As a 340-pound nose tackle that’s not your cup of tea as I like to call it. I think we will see a better Alameda Ta’amu as the year goes on but hopefully we can continue to push the pocket with him in the middle. I would like to think we will rotate some guys a little earlier in the game to keep him fresh. But by no means was I disappointed with Alameda. I thought he played hard.”

On the team being cautious: “I just thought, the best word I can describe it is cautious. We can play, we can cover, we’ve got good athletes, we can rush the passer. We don’t need to be cautious or concerned with what might happen if I’m wrong — go play. And we’ll fix it on the sidelines if it’s a scheme thing or something we will fix it. But it’s hard to fix something if we are not believing in our abilities on the football field. If I’m a corner and I run 4.4, I don’t have to play 10 yards off all the time – I can get up in games and believe in playing the fade route, and I thought Desmond got better as the game wore on, and he’s the best example. He settled in and started making more plays on the fades and getting his hands and ultimately got the interception. I thought Greg Ducre got a little better as the game went on before he cramped up and had a couple PBUs. But it’s got to be everybody. It’s got to be Sean Parker, it’s got to be Johnny Timu, it’s got to be Princeton Fuimaono, it’s got to be James Sample, it’s got to be Josh Shirley. We can’t play with hesitation because when you play with hesitation, that’s when you get beat, especially against a team like Eastern who is a veteran group and really believed in what they are doing and have been doing it for so long. They have been doing it for so long, it didn’t matter what we were doing, they knew what they wanted to do and get done.”

On how the return of Quinton Richardson may help: “The more good cover guys you have on the field the better off you are obviously and hopefully it will allow us to do a few more things from a man-to-man perspective. Quinton’s experience and what he brought to our football team at the end of last season will only be beneficial from a confidence standpoint as far as believing in the calls and in what we are doing and in playing a fast, furious brand of football.”

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